Monday, May 2, 2011

Why I'm not celebrating

I’m going to offer my thoughts about what’s been happening as a result of the announcement last night about the killing of Osama Bin Laden. My comments will not be universally popular. As the celebrations in the streets go on, Bin Laden’s well-deserved death doesn’t leave me particularly joyful or contribute in any way to my pride in being an American. My pride in being an American depends on constitutional freedoms that other people around the world envy (and even hate).

I should start off by saying that I have no sympathy for Bin Laden, nor am I sorry he's dead. He chose to live by the sword, and he died by it. Justice of the eye-for-an-eye biblical sort has been served. And I’m not a blanket opponent of the death penalty -- far from it, in fact. Osama’s actions have resulted in thousands of deaths -- perhaps tens of thousands if the final tally were to be completed comprehensively. He certainly can be said to have deserved to die. Of course, in muslim eyes, Osama Bin Laden is now a martyr to the cause of islam. This is untrue, of course. He's the now-dead leader of a terrorist group that has used the defense of islam as an excuse to serve political ends: seeking to install a world-wide muslim theocracy.

But I find the notion of my country sending out "death squads" to commit premeditated murder is not something in which I find cause for pride or celebration. This leaves us on the moral level of right-wing dictators in South America and elsewhere around the world. We're so pleased with our military right now, perhaps without realizing the "might makes right" implications of our government’s actions since 9/11/01. Note that I'm not condemning the warriors -- only the war. It's like in a movie, where if the crime is egregious enough, that justifies any response that might follow. Killing people in movies always seems to be a way to solve problems, but life is not a movie. Death only solves a small class of problems.

Moreover, this "justice" was accomplished without trial. At least the equally nasty dictator Saddam Hussein was given a trial before he was executed -- something neither Saddam nor Bin Laden ever gave their victims. In that sense, we remained on a higher moral plane than Saddam -- before we killed him. I suppose someone will argue that Osama was killed in a firefight, resisting capture. I suspect he was simply murdered but, of course, I have no way of knowing that one way or another. Who would want to give the bastard the forum for his hate that a trial would allow? But for a nation that professes to cherish law and order, summary execution seems rather inconsistent with those principles. People around the world see our actions as not being consistent with the principles we claim to cherish. Our hypocrisy reveals our lies to them, although many Americans are blind to that hypocrisy.

Another rationalization could be that this was an evil person who deserved to die. I'm reminded of the lines from the movie Lord of the Rings:
Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends.

There's little doubt in my mind that Osama deserved to die, perhaps many times over if that were possible. Does his death bring back the thousands of people killed as a result of his deeds? Of course not. The biblical god claims vengeance to be his, not belonging in the repertoire of humans [although the bible seemingly contradicts this principle, so choose your point of view]. Mere execution could seem to some to be letting this guy off too easy, of course. At the very least, we could've waterboarded him for a few weeks, right?

Nor can I say I'm particularly happy with our President claiming we're a nation "under god", and asking that his god bless America -- just which god is the one of whom the President speaks? Apparently, he's referring to the god of the bible. Not all of us in the USA believe in the biblical god invoked by the President. It seems the President can't be speaking on behalf of those who don't believe in his god. I guess that means he isn't speaking for me, in particular. Is not the god of the bible the same god (by a different name) claimed by islam? Can god possibly be on both sides of a war? It seems it must be so, since both sides are claiming him (which seems to happen a lot in history). In that case, what sort of god is this, playing both sides? Is this the sort of deity we choose to believe sanctions whatever we do in his name?

It seems we're willing to give up our liberties, sacrifice our youth in wars on foreign soil, and commit murder in the name of justice -- explain to me how these actions are different from the terrorists! One of the goals of the terrorists all along has been to demonstrate the moral bankruptcy of the USA. It seems they're succeeding. I've already discussed this elsewhere.

Recall how we all felt when we heard that Palestinians were celebrating in the streets after the attacks of 9/11/01? We were astonished that any people would actually be celebrating the death of innocent civilians. Osama Bin Laden was hardly an innocent civilian, but he had become a symbol of defiance for muslims around the world who feel persecuted (and they have the innocent civilian deaths to back up their claim). I can well imagine muslim youths lining up to volunteer to be suicide bombers, seeking vengeance for the death of Bin Laden. I'm sure they see our celebrations over the death of Bin Laden in the same way we saw those celebrations in Palestine. Vengeance begets vengeance, not justice. We may be pleased with ourselves for finally taking vengeance on him, but we likely won't be happy with what ensues.

People on both sides of this conflict between islam and the west have allowed themselves to be consumed by tribalism, spurred on by political "leaders" who have used religion and nationalism as tools to demonize the other side, justifying merciless jihad and vigilante "justice" in the process. The death of Osama Bin Laden will not cause terrorism to roll over and die. Our security has not been increased by this act of vengeance. The pain of our losses will not be eased by the absence of this terrible (but increasingly irrelevant) man on the Earth. I can see no cause for celebration, nor any end to the bloodshed and pain of this war on terrorism that employs terrorist tactics (murder and torture, among others) by Americans in retaliation.


jimmyc said...

I happen to agree with many of your points. It would have been best for his existence to fade away into the ether, but rarely do such ideal conditions unfold in the real world.

Lak said...

I am record as saying that we would have been better off dumping his body into the sea and not telling anyone that he was dead ... so I agree that celebrating is a bit unseemly. Not to mention that it is counterproductive.

However, bin Laden was guilty. He admitted giving the orders for the World Trade Center attack in a 2006 interview. So, in that sense, no trial was necessary.

wmevans11 said...

oh how so true. mankind is so violent. we kill for pleasure, for sport, for food, for fun, for country, for some ideology...
For the past 5000 years, there have been 5000 wars. Yet we have learned nothing. We are not interested in eliminating violence, we thrive on it. My heart goes out to all victims of violence. I wish you well, my friend.

Scott said...

Fresh Air on NPR had two segments on terrorism. One was on Islamist terrorism and Osama bin Laden, and the other segment on Wall Street's financial terrorism. The Islamist terrorists leader that orchestrated the 9/11 was shot in the head today, while the leaders that caused financial terror were awarded TARP and bonuses.

Scott said...

Fresh Air on NPR had two segments on terrorism. One was on Islamist terrorism and Osama bin Laden, and the other one on Wall Street's financial terrorism. The Islamist terrorists leader that orchestrated 9/11 was shot in the head today, while the leaders that caused financial terror were awarded TARP and bonuses.

bc said...

You're right, sending OBL to be sodomized by pigs in hell (praise Allah) won't end the generational war of civilizations.

But it's a start in the right direction.

Chuck, you've told me on more than one occasion that you can shit in one hand and wish in the other...well, we're in a world of shit. And it's fixing to get a lot shittier. Thank God we have men and women willing and able to flush the head. Pray for peace but prepare for war.

Speaking of shit, Scott, having some lackus sackus on NPR comparing islamist terrorists to the corruption and greed of corporate America is a dump of the foulest quality. The price of freedom is that we live in a society that tolerates such utter nonsense.

Scott said...

President Obama says we're a 'blessed' nation 'under God', so how does it work? Did our deity 'bless' America on April 27th, 2011, by 'creating' a severe weather outbreak of historic proportions? Also we're told to pray to the same deity, thanking him for protecting us survivors from his wrath?

Obama 2012 said...

I agree! I wish they would would have taken him alive so he could have gotten an OJ defense team to get him off on manslaughter charges, or at least an insanity plea! Still hard to understand that Obama was so heartless in ordering an assassination on someone, Bush maybe! But not Obama! I am really sad right now knowing that he did not get his due process! Who are we to be judge, jury and executioner?

Scott said...

Speaking of shit, Scott, having "some lackus sackus on NPR comparing islamist terrorists to the corruption and greed of corporate America is a dump of the foulest quality. The price of freedom is that we live in a society that tolerates such utter nonsense".

It wasn't the 'lackus sackus' on NPR that compared terrorism on 9/11 to terrorism on Wall Street, it was the person who posed this comment. Lackus sackus? That's great. Love it!

Anonymous said...

I can understand your uneasiness at the taking of a human life, though personally in this case I don't share it. But although we will probably never know all the details of this operation, I think it is a fair bet that Osama alive would have been a tastier morsel than Osama dead. He knew this day could come at any time and probably knew what he would do when it did. Would he choose a long imprisonment, the humiliation of a trial and/or the possibility of long torture followed by death, or choose quick and painless martydom that might ultimately further his cause, not to mention the added bonus of the 72 virgins? In that light, it seems unlikely that Osama would allow himself to be taken alive if he could possibly avoid it. So I don't think we need to spend too much time assuming the U.S. is lying about him resisting capture. We can hardly expect him to have done anything else. As for the morality of sending a "death squad" to kill him, I would just say that this was no ordinary criminal, but someone responsible for the deaths of thousands of people, not only the victims of his terrorist acts, but also many who followed him and many caught in the crossfire, and while alive he ramined a threat to many lives. The American people have a right to expect that their government will act to deal with such threats, and in finding and killing him, we did. Say what you like about the "war on terror" with all it's messy offshoots and collateral damage, this is one act that was righteous and to the point, in my view. And while it probably would have been a bigger blow to the enemy to dump him quietly with no ceremony and not tell anyone, it would have meant throwing away all that political coin with the American people, who at least would like to know that their money finally did buy a concrete result. Also, by claiming the act, we might at least make it more difficult for the enemy to put their own spin on it. I am so proud to be an American, and I love my country and its people so much. Not because we finally stomped that cockroach, but because we can have this discussion, and because we are self-aware enough and morally equipped enough to consider different points of view, and to think carefully about our choices instead of just mindlessly following along with what we are told. That, in my humble opinion, is what makes America great. --mountain kimmie

Anonymous said...

When I first heard about the news I thought that he had perhaps resisted arrested and was shot and killed as a result?. If that were true why wasn't a rubber bullet used?. However that may not have been how it played out.

In any case I too tend not to take pride in any sort in the killing of an individual. Though if someone took the life of a family member or friend I would likely remain rather unsympathetic for whether the person who committed the crime remains dead or alive afterwards. I tend to think that most people would agree with that though.

However that is a much different case as I doubt whether Bin Laden alone was the culprit for murders. After all it took more than one person to fly multiple airplanes into multiple buildings.

Anonymous said...

While on the topic of Palestinians (deeper into your thoughts), the fact that by in large radical groups with a history of committing violent acts (i.e. Zionists) are the driver behind long ongoing war there deserves mention somewhere. For I believe that most Israeli and Palestinians would rather live with each other in peace than apart.

Chuck Doswell said...

If OBL had thrown up his hands immediately and walked over on his knees to the SEALs in abject surrender, he might have been taken alive. Otherwise, this was a team very much inclined not to allow him to live - i.e., a death squad.

Oscar van der Velde said...

I agree he should have been captured. But you could be sure he would be tortured forever then. The reputation of America with regard to torture is already very bad since Bush. And there would always be human rights groups insisting on a fair trial and Americans who don't want to put him in prison on US ground. I suppose Obama just wanted to get over with it quickly.

I also don't understand who still wants to see the gruesome pictures. You've got to be sick if imprinting such pictures in your lasting memory give you satisfaction.

Talking about inconsistency of US/European values and actions: why are we all in Libya "protecting the people against the regime" but not in Syria? On the other hand, the USA keeps actively supporting a regime which used excessive military power against civilians in Gaza not long ago. Including white phosphorus.

And how about a fair trial for the Wiki-leak US soldier? A small crime to reveal a much bigger crime. Which of the offenders should be punished harder?